Roles and responsibilities

Charity Trustee responsibilities
The University is a registered educational charitable body which falls within the scope of the Charities and Trustees Investment Scotland Act 2005 and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. Members of the Court therefore carry responsibilities as the Charity Trustees. (Any person who is disqualified from becoming a Charity Trustee within the terms set out in section 69 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 cannot take up a position on the Court.)
Values and conduct
All governing bodies should take the lead in establishing and promoting the values for the organisations that they govern. This means that each member of the governing body is expected to lead by example and demonstrate, on a personal level, the highest standards of conduct.
Heriot-Watt University Court and Court committees conduct their business in accordance with governance best practice and with the ‘Principles of Public Life’. These should be at the forefront of Court and Court committee members’ thoughts. The Scottish Code of Good Higher Education Governance sets out the Scottish Government’s nine principles of public life: Duty; Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability and Stewardship; Openness; Honesty; Leadership; and Respect.
Members of the Court and its committees are expected to:
  1. make a positive and enthusiastic contribution to the development of the University, through sharing of their skills and experience;
  2. review the University’s performance, monitoring and ensuring the robustness and transparency of the required controls, governance and assurance systems;
  3. be ambitious for the University;
  4. be a critical friend and advocate of the University;
  5. challenge and to debate constructively and contribute to the effectiveness of the Court and any Court committee they serve as part of a cohesive group with collective responsibilities;
  6. analyse complex issues and apply strategic and analytical approaches to the collective decision making process;
  7. recognise and respect the balance and interactions between governance and executive management functions;
  8. support equality and diversity;
  9. seek to advance their knowledge and understanding of the complex and changing higher education environment, nationally and internationally; and
  10. participate in the life of the University more widely, availability permitting.
Members of the Court and its committees are expected at all times to act in the best interests of the University. These expectations are set out in the University’s Ethical Business: Conflict of Interest Policy for Court and Court committee members.
In return for the personal commitment made by members of the Court and its committees, there are significant benefits. The opportunity will be attractive to individuals who value the experience of working alongside other forward-thinking people and who are keen to share in the particular satisfaction and sense of pride in securing the University’s future success that being a Court or Court committee member brings.
The Scottish Code of Good Higher Education Governance
The University is committed to achieving full compliance with the newly revised Scottish Code of Good Higher Education Governance.
Time commitment
Court members are expected to serve on at least one Court committee as well as on the Court itself. The Court meets seven times per year, including at five half-day ordinary meetings and two full day strategy day meetings. In addition members are expected to attend Court Dinner Meetings which normally occur the evening before Court meetings. Court committees normally around four times each year. There is also an expectation that Court members will attend a few other events each year, such as the Annual Stakeholder Meeting. The time commitment could therefore extend up to the equivalent of 20 days per annum.
The University expects Court and Court committee members to take time to prepare in advance of meetings and to familiarise themselves with governance good practice, the life and work of the University and the higher education sector in general.
Court committee members are invited to participate in whole day Court Strategy Day events held in May and November each year, and through an inclusive approach Court Committee members are routinely included in invitations alongside Court members to University events and celebrations.

It is essential that members are able to maintain a high level of attendance at meetings. Please note the Court’s Attendance and Participation Policy, which applies to Court and Court Committee members.

Court and Court committee member induction and development
New members of Court and its committees are provided with an induction programme and further opportunities to learn more about the University and their role as a Court or Court committee member. Induction training and development are provided through a mixture of in-house and external opportunities. Funds are made available when required, for example, to enable members to attend governor development programme seminars provided by Advance HE (formerly the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education).
All Court and Court committee members are expected to take personal responsibility for keeping their knowledge updated throughout the period of their membership and to be concerned for their own development needs in relation to their role.
No remuneration is attached to the role of Court or Court Committee member, therefore this opportunity will be attractive to exceptional individuals who will value the experience of working alongside other forward-thinking individuals and sharing in the satisfaction and sense of pride associated with contributions to the University’s future success. All reasonable out of pocket expenses can be reimbursed to members by arrangement. Reimbursements will be made in accordance with the University’s Travel and Expenses Policy.
Register of Interests
The Scottish Code of Good Higher Education Governance stipulates: “all members shall exercise their responsibilities in the interests of the Institution as a whole rather than as a representative of any constituency. The Institution shall maintain and publicly disclose a current register of interests of members of the governing body on its website.” The University’s Register of Interests includes the interests of both Court and Court committee members.
Court appointment terms and new member declaration
A sample letter of appointment for new members of the Court is available.  As part of the criteria for appointment by the Court, Court and Court committee members will be required to confirm their acceptance of the terms set out in the letter of appointment.
Further advice
The Secretary of the University is secretary to the Court and is available to provide advice to existing and potential future members of Court and its committees. Contact: Ann Marie Dalton-Pillay, Secretary of the University, Tel: 0131 451 3690 (
For more general advice about the work of the Court and its committees, contact may be made with the Secretariat: Contact: Lorna Kirkwood-Smith, Head of the Secretariat, Tel 0131 451 3631 (

The Ethical Business: Conflict of Interest Policy for Governors sets out particular responsibilities of governors as ‘Trustees’ and their obligation to avoid conflict of interest situations.